So, here’s where my mind’s been headed for the last few weeks. For people who’ve not known me that long, this will provide some deeper insight into the Sonny-who-was before you met him. For the RARE few of you who have known me for decades…you might smile a little at yourself, finding yourself cast into a role into this trip down nostalgia lane.
All right. Grab a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice) and settle in.
For the last few weeks, Ashley and I have attended worship services on Sunday at Mosaic here in Miami (see sidebar for the link). No, for those of you who might be curious, this is not a “satellite” church that’s a plant of the same name from the church in LA where we sit around and watch a live feed or a DVD of a pre-taped service by Erwin McManus (not that there’s anything WRONG with that). Although, to be candid, we had no clue what the heck to expect before we went that first, fateful Sunday. We found the church (okay, confession time: Ashley found the church) through a quick search at www.RelevantMagazine.com before we moved here – we knew once we got to Miami, leaving behind everyone and everything that we knew, in order to make us feel more grounded, we needed to find a new home where we could find people who would HELP us to feel at home.
This place – Mosaic Miami – is about as intimate and real as it can get in terms of a local church: this is truly a collective of believers of a like mind and like passions (each other; the care and protection of the world and people around us; loving and living life in passion and respect for each other; the arts are celebrated; etc.). They meet in a small building of non-descript origin (the building feels like the 706 Room, for those of you who might know what that looks like) in downtown Miami just a stone’s throw from the literal wrong side of the tracks, and it’s populated not by folding or stackable chairs, but by a buncha comfy couches – all of which look like they’ve seen better days but have been reclaimed for a greater purpose – and very bohemian furnishings. The place is illuminated by a combination of Ikea-looking lights hanging from the ceiling, candles, and very few “stage” lights for the main podium. The services start at 11:00-ish (depending on if the projector and – everyone’s favorite: Media Shout! – are both functioning properly) and run for the almost two hours, including a break after the worship time for people to meet, grab a cuppa, and catch up while the stage goes from Worship Set to Teaching Set…meaning, the guitar gets packed away, the cables get rolled up, and the small table and laptop get placed on the stage. More often than not, as we have found, after services, the congregation (running 60-75 at my best estimate) all come together after all is said and done to share in a communal meal. People come in to the services not at the “downbeat” of 11:00, but as they are able to – if they’re commuting, walking, riding a bike…whatever...and running a bit late, there’s no judgment cast or glances thrown their way is they come in a little bit late. Time is not an issue. This, of course, makes Ashley smirk at me continually whenever I bring this up (for those of you who know her, you understand that Ashley Time does not necessarily sync up with what the rest of humanity uses).
For someone who’s spent the greater part of the last three years worshipping in a warehouse across the street from a beer distributor, the physical layout and placement of the church? Not a big deal. I have some friends who genuinely looked down their noses at where Compass meets when I would try and explain the uber-coolness of using an existing facility for a church instead of (soapbox mini-rant) being a poor steward of the planet and spending time and money on building yet another cathedral symbolizing steeple-envy among the masses. This place? My friends would go nuts, and not in a “HOLYCRAPTHISPLACEISSOCOOL” kind of way, but in the “You call this a church?” kind of way.
If Jittery Joe’s at Five Points in Athens had a church, this is what it would look like.
[SARCASM MODE ON] So you know that I hate it, right? [SARCASM MODE OFF]
Now, while Ashley and I are still wondering where we’ll “light” eventually for a home church, while I debate what the freak I’m going to do come January and beyond (prayers, anyone?), while I wrestle with this calling thing in my heart, while I openly argue with God on the latest and greatest tug on my heart (taking some of the better of these postings plus the materials in my journals and turning them into a book/submitting an article or two to be published)…Mosaic has, at the VERY least, been a beautiful, glorious respite for me. As someone who was not burned out on church, but was questioning the authenticity of a lot of places which seem to honor style over substance, this place has been a breath of fresh air.
I’ve visited a number of churches where the whole service felt very much like it was designed with a corporate mentality in mind – if the message itself wasn’t pre-packaged and/or made of processed materials (culled from other sermons, put together in a mish-mash of loose connections, kinda how a McBurger is put together from various parts of…something…), then the entire worship experience felt more like it was being kept warm by a heat lamp instead of a fire burning in the hearts of the chefs of this church. Packaging a worship experience as a cohesive whole, making it to where Point A flows into Point B seamlessly, where the songs sync up with the message, where everything feels intentionally and purposefully made to feel as if it’s meant to go together? When it works, it’s a beautiful, synchronistic and meaningful moment of life change for many people (raises hand). True moments like this – inspired by God and implemented by us ragamuffins – are not to be mocked or lessened by the times when we try to FORCE a “heart moment” into a worship experience, because we think something SHOULD fit into a certain place because we think it MIGHT be good. Unfortunately, just because something is cool or because something worked once – or worked once for someone else – does not mean that lightning can or will strike twice. Or seven times seventy.
And the consumer mentality of many (but not all) of the people I encountered on a week-to-week basis who would attend church (“Serve me and my needs and I’ll pay the $3.99 for the value meal…maybe…but don’t ask me to get in that kitchen and help you”) just drained me. No, I don’t think that volunteers should be tapped week in and week out, to be used and drained like a battery and then discarded when they get jaded or burnt out. Unless they’re a freak like me who would double the time of his work week by going to church late at nights and on the weekends to serve (love you, 706-ers: you all is still my heartbeat). But even workaholic freaks like me need a break every now and again. The problem is, many people just tend to see the people working the counter (so to speak) in a church as static and always there to serve THEM, without ever thinking how they can, in turn, serve others. There are probably the people who “forget” to tip the servers at Waffle House, thinking they should be grateful to have a job serving them.
Again, just going through the motions and not getting invested in a body of believers is kinda like eating nothing but McBurgers for months on end. Yes, I’ve seen the documentaries of the people who eat this and get grossly obese and slovenly, and I know there are people who can do it and not on the surface suffer any ill effects. But don’t you wonder what that does to the insides of you? How…bad…your digestion has GOT to be by now? How after eating nothing but junk for months (or, in some cases: years) on end…you lose some of your tastebuds. Geez, I know that after all the coffee I’ve chugged in the last 25+ years, I have to have fried more than a few of the taste sensors on my tongue.
I also know that I have tried to – and have allowed God to – scrape the gunk off my soul, restoring the taste in my soul for meaningful and fruitful worship.
Me? I’m spoiled on whole foods. I’m spoiled on the organic, locally grown produce.
Both in terms of food that feeds my body and food that feeds my soul.
…man. Have I EVER gotten off topic from what I set out to type initially.
Tell you what – come back later for Part 2 of this little missive. I’m actually going to break what I’ve written in half, and Part 2 will be on-line by the weekend.
It’ll be worth the wait.